Continuity and discontinuity of collaboration behaviour since 1800
From a bibliometric point of view

by Roland Wagner-Döbler

Among the main causes of collaboration of scientists the professionalization and institutionalization of science, beginning in the 19th century, is mentioned. For the 20th century, often the trend to work in "big science" projects, in many cases of an interdisciplinary character, is pointed out as another causal root. Especially in physics, also the necessity to use expensive devices and instruments on an international level seems to foster or even force to collaborate.

In the present paper, the collaborative behaviour in mathematics is investigated which was never a typical big science as physics and never used labs or other expensive devices (apart from the use of computers in the last decades), and partially compared to physics. Using representative bibliographical databases of some 1.5 Mio. publications of the 19th and the 20th century, the amount of collaboration in mathematics as reflected in co?authored publications will be examined from 1800 to 1998. It will be shown that there was low?level collaboration from the beginning of the 19th century on. The take?off of collaboration can be observed in the middle of the 20th century. On the basis of the "Catalogue of Scientific Papers" of the 19th century, it can be established, however, that in physics the starting point of exponential growth of collaboration goes back to the second half of the 19th century. The comparative analysis of about 50 mathematical areas and about 50 physics areas demonstrates the necessity of a "differential diagnostics" of collaboration. As a consequence of that comparative approach, most general causal considerations of the roots of collaboration must be called unsettled and too unspecific. In addition, the results suggest that the changing rhetorics and the changing public attitudes concerning the requirements and gains of collaboration since the 19th century have no major effects on collaboration behaviour insofar it is mirrored bibliometrically.

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